WASHINGTON There was a time when Hector Hernandez questioned his future in law enforcement.

“April 19th, 1995, the day of the Oklahoma City Bombing, was the worst it ever was,” Hernandez said. “I was one of the first Secret Service Agents on the scene. I knew the people in that rubble. I wasn’t sure I could keep doing this job after that but something about the people here made me decide that I had to stay and do right by them. That’s all I’m trying to do.”

Thanks to the mentoring and friendship Hernandez received from the Hispanic American Police Command Officers Association (HAPCOA) and the Secret Service, he pressed forward. Now, he is the Special Agent in Charge of the Vice Presidential Protective Division and is receiving HAPCOA’s most prestigious award.

On May 1, Hernandez received HAPCOA’s Aguila Statue Award. The award “is the highest form of recognition given by HAPCOA for exceptional contributions by an individual or an organization in support of HAPCOA’s mission and goals. Nominees exemplify the highest levels of concern for Public Safety and embody the principles of HAPCOA was founded to promote,” according to the organization.

Hernandez has been a proud member of the HAPCOA community for years and considers the organization to have been an integral part of his development in law enforcement. The organization was established in 1973 and is the oldest and largest association of Hispanic American law enforcement command members in the United States.

“Some of the best mentors throughout my career have been Hispanic Americans within the law enforcement community,” said Hernandez. “They understand where I’ve come from and they have helped me get to where I am now.”

When Hernandez was a young agent and sought the mentorship of HAPCOA members, he never dreamed he would one day be receiving the organization’s highest award or that he would be leading the Vice Presidential Protective Division.

“I have only earned a piece of this award,” Hernandez said. “The rest of it is for the men and women that saw something in me and encouraged me to keep going no matter what.”